18.10.18

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Khashoggi’s disappearance: Disturbing evidence emerges

Multilateral lenders account for 35% of Africa’s debt

World population grows by 2.2bn by 2050

UN describes ‘Virginity testing’ as human rights violation

Woman kills herself, 2 kids after husband fakes his death

FADAMA III ‎distributes domestic animals to IDPs

17.10.18

Prominent evangelical leader on Khashoggi crisis: let’s not risk “$100 billion worth of arms sales”

Pat Robertson speaks at a Trump rally at Regent University, where Robertson is chancellor

Pat Robertson urged caution over US-Saudi relations

A major evangelical leader has spoken in defense of US-Saudi relations after the apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate, saying that America has more important things — like arms deals — to focus on.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appeared on its flagship television show The 700 Club on Monday to caution Americans against allowing the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia to deteriorate over Khashoggi’s death.

“For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis — look, these people are key allies,” Robertson said. While he called the faith of the Wahabists — the hardline Islamist sect to which the Saudi Royal Family belongs — “obnoxious,” he urged viewers to remember that “we’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of…it’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

Robertson praised the approach of President Donald Trump, who has publicly cast doubt on the allegations against the Saudis, comparing them to those of sexual assault against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month. On Wednesday, after the New York Times reported that it had obtained audio of Khashoggi being tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the consulate, Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported that Trump said that he had requested the recording, “if it exists,” later adding “I’m not sure that it exists.”

A day later, Robertson doubled down, reappearing on the network to dismiss calls for any form of reprisals against the Saudis as “ill-advised,” in part because of Saudi Arabia’s hardline stance against Iran, whom Robertson identified as a bigger threat.

“You’ve got one journalist — who knows? Was it an interrogation? Was he assassinated? Were there rogue elements? Who did it?...You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales...we cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and longtime critic of the Saudi Royal Family, was a permanent resident of the United States, where he moved after determining that it was unsafe to remain in his home country. Khashoggi spent the past year as a columnist for the Washington Post, where he regularly published incendiary articles critical of Saudi Arabia and its leadership.

Khashoggi disappeared two weeks ago in Istanbul during a routine visit to the Saudi consulate there to attain documents for his upcoming marriage.

Robertson’s stance is in keeping with his wider, full-throated support for President Trump’s policies over the past few years. Since Trump’s inauguration, the Christian Broadcasting Network has become a de facto propaganda channel for the administration, running programs that, for example, suggest that Donald Trump was chosen by God to become president. In return, Robertson has frequently been granted rare access for sit-down interviews with Trump, during which he typically throws Trump softball questions.

It’s unclear whether Trump’s stance on Khashoggi will change as a result of the Times’ latest reporting. For now, he maintains that the Saudis should be considered — like Brett Kavanaugh — innocent until proven guilty, and that “rogue killers” may be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance. Trump has previously praised Saudis as spending “$40 or $50 million” buying Trump properties, and members of the Royal Family have frequently stayed in Trump properties, or in one case, paid to stay without actually turning up, a move that significantly improved the Trump Hotel International’s annual revenue.

Earlier this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who may have been responsible for Khashoggi’s assassination, for a smiling photo op.

Within this context, Robertson’s comments make perfect sense. Throughout the Trump administration, the role of CBN has consistently been to legitimize the president’s actions to his white evangelical base. During the migrant family separation crisis, for example, longtime Trump advisor (and prosperity gospel preacher) Paula White appeared on the channel to remind viewers that Jesus never broke immigration law to support the idea that Christians should not feel sympathetic toward refugees on the grounds that Jesus — according to the Biblical account of his time in Egypt in infancy — was one, too.

source: vox

Trump says selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will create a lot of jobs. That’s not true.

Newly graduated Saudi air force officers march in front of F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase in Riyadh on January 25, 2017. American defense companies sell fighter jets, missiles, and other equipment to the Saudi military.

The impact of foreign arms sales on the US economy is minuscule.

President Donald Trump wants America to think that tons of US jobs depend on the sale of US military weapons to Saudi Arabia and other shady regimes. But they really don’t.

The president has been pushing back against public pressure to cancel weapon sales to Saudi Arabia in light of recent news that Saudi leaders may have ordered the assassination of a US resident and journalist who wrote for the Washington Post. Jamal Khashoggi, who fled the kingdom in 2017, often criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for jailing hundreds of journalists and activists and for engaging in a brutal war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s apparent assassination two weeks ago at a Saudi consulate in Turkey has fractured US relations with the kingdom, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have urged the president to consider imposing sanctions on the country.

Trump, though, has downplayed the evidence linking the crown prince (who is also known as MBS) to Khashoggi’s apparent murder, and has made it clear that he really, really doesn’t want to stop selling weapons to the gulf monarchy.

His reason? Too many American jobs depend on US arms sales to the kingdom. He repeated that claim during an interview that aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday:

“They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it ... I don’t wanna hurt jobs,” he said.

But as it turns out, canceling weapons sales to Saudi Arabia won’t really hurt US jobs much. There aren’t that many American workers making weapons for the Pentagon, much less Saudi Arabia, and MBS isn’t buying enough weapons to put a dent in the US economy anyway.

Overall, the private US defense industry does directly employ a lot of US workers — about 355,500 in 2016, according to the most the recent estimates from the Aerospace Industries Association. But private-sector defense workers make up less than 0.5 percent of the total US labor force, and that includes every person whose job depends directly on the sale or production of airplanes, tanks, bombs, and services for the entire US military. It’s unlikely that many of them, if any, depend directly on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and its also unlikely that those jobs would vanish if Saudi money disappeared.

“The relationship between arms sales and jobs is exaggerated,” said William Hartung, an analyst who studies US weapons exports for the liberal-leaning Center for International Policy.

Beyond this, Hartung points out, Saudi Arabia isn’t actually even spending a massive amount of money on American weapons. The kingdom buys the ammunition and bombs it needs to keep waging a bloody war in Yemen, but nothing even close the $110 billion deal Trump touted.

So despite what the president says, there is no real threat of US job losses to justify continued American support for a repressive regime that is likely responsible for the gruesome murder of a journalist in Turkey — and that is also killing thousands of civilians with American-made weapons in Yemen.

Arms sales are about politics, not jobs

Trump is hardly the first US president to agree sell fighter jets, missiles, and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama did it, and so did every other president going back to the Truman administration. The United States was desperate for Saudi oil and a military ally in the Middle East, so US politicians have been willing to sell the kingdom all the war weapons it wants, ignoring the regime’s record of human rights abuses.

In 2016, as Obama ended his last term, his administration notified Congress about plans to sell $5 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. That included deals brokered by the Pentagon, State Department, and those handled directly by the US defense companies that make the equipment. Saudi Arabia wanted to buy missiles and jet fighters.

But concerns were mounting about Saudi Arabia’s bloody war in Yemen, where the kingdom has been fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since 2015. Human rights groups and the United Nations expressed concern that Saudi airstrikes were killing thousands of civilians at schools, clinics, markets and weddings.

In just one instance, in October 2016, Saudi warplanes dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb that killed at least 100 people attending a funeral. The bomb, a GBU-12 Paveway II, was manufactured in the United States at the time by defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

In response, shortly before leaving office, Obama suspended the proposed sale of another $500 million worth of laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

That changed after Trump arrived at the White House. In March 2017, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greenlighted the sale, as well as a handful of arms deals with other countries that were on hold because of human rights concerns. That included the sale of military jets to Nigeria and fighter planes to Bahrain. The president said ramping up arms sales was part of his plan to boost US manufacturing jobs, and it no longer seemed to matter what foreign militaries were doing with the weapons.

Trump’s claim that many US jobs depend on arms sales is a real stretch

In May 2017, Trump made his first foreign trip to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where he met with MBS, the kingdom’s new crown prince. Trump said he was brokering a $110 billion arms deal that would create “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Even though Trump had lifted the hold on the $500 bomb sale, some members of Congress tried to block it. They couldn’t. In June, the Senate narrowly approved the deal. Since then, the Saudi-led coalition has killed thousands of civilians with American-made bombs, including at least 40 children who were riding a school bus. The United Nations now considers the situation in Yemen “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

But instead of reprimanding MBS, Trump has continued to push for arms sales to the kingdom, touting the supposed economic benefits for the United States. When MBS visited the White House in March, Trump was effusive about it. He even held up a US map highlighting all the states that would get jobs from the arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The map stated that 40,000 jobs would be created, though the administration didn’t cite the source for that number. That’s because no one knows for sure how many US jobs depend on arms sales. The federal government doesn’t keep data on that, and it doesn’t even break down how many total jobs are related to manufacturing military equipment. It’s a tiny fraction of the US labor force.

Here’s what we do know: The private-sector defense industry directly employed a total of 355,500 in 2016, according to the most the recent estimates from the Aerospace Industries Association. That includes manufacturing jobs, but also every other job in the defense industry, even those who are supplying uniforms for soldiers. This entire group makes up less than 0.5 percent of the total US labor force. And their main client is the US military, not the Saudi military.

About 153,800 American workers are directly involved in making commercial and military aircraft, according to the most recent industry employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that includes workers who make passenger planes for commercial airlines, a much larger sector of the economy that those who make military jets and helicopters.

But we can get pretty specific data on how many American workers are making bombs. That data is more clear-cut, and Saudi Arabia buys plenty of American bombs for its war in Yemen. Only about 7,666 workers were making bombs for the defense and law enforcement industries in 2016, and that includes explosives sold to the entire US military. It’s doubtful these jobs are entirely dependent on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In short, the US economy does not need Saudi Arabia to keep buying bombs. (And besides, MBS wants all arms deals to include some production in the kingdom.)

MBS wants to manufacture weapons in Saudi Arabia

In the short term, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia may support some US factory jobs. But here’s the thing: Saudi Arabia plans to start manufacturing a lot of those weapons at home.

Building up a local weapons manufacturing industry is part of the crown prince’s much-touted 2030 economic development plan, which is supposed to reduce the kingdom’s economic dependence on oil exports. In short, Saudi Arabia expects half of all jobs created by weapons deals to be local jobs. Here’s what he says in an outline of the plan that the Saudi government has posted online:

Localization will be achieved through direct investments and strategic partnerships with leading companies in this sector. These moves will transfer knowledge and technology, and build national expertise in the fields of manufacturing, maintenance, repair, research and development. We will also train our employees and establish more specialized and integrated industrial complexes.

American defense contractors that sell a lot of military equipment to Saudi Arabia are on board. Raytheon, for example, is in the process of opening a subsidiary in Riyadh.

Aside from shifting manufacturing jobs overseas, Saudi Arabia’s defense industry could eventually compete with the US defense industry. This focus would completely change the current economic relationship between both countries, according to Reuters.

Since Trump took office, his administration has notified Congress about plans to sell Saudi Arabia about $14.5 billion worth of tanks, bombs, missiles, and airplanes. Most are non-bonding agreements, not contracts, so details are still scarce. But at least one involves manufacturing parts overseas, not in the United States.

Now Congress is reportedly reviewing another proposed sale of 12,000 guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters. The Senate could cancel the sale if they can get enough votes, and some senators have suggested this as a form of sanctions in response to the Khashoggi case. Trump said that would be bad for American workers. But, once again, US workers don’t need Saudi Arabia.

source: vox

Ekiti govt. scraps developement levy in schools

The new Ekiti state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Wednesday ordered the immediate scrapping of payment of development levy in all public secondary and primary schools across the state.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi
Governor of Ekiti State

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that students and pupils pay N1,000 and N500 respectively as development levy per term under the immediate administation of former Gov. Ayo Fayose.

The policy generated controversies from individuals and groups that led to a legal action being instituted by the Catholic Mission in the state against Fayose.

The mission dragged Fayose to court, describing the policy as unkind and wicked on the part of school children and their poor parents.

The former governor had consistently defended the policy, saying it was part of measures designed to shore-up the state’s dwindling monthly revenue.

Fayose had in 2015 introduced payment of the development levy, which many tagged education tax in all private and public schools.

But Fayemi on Wednesday, at a “Thank You” visit to Ido Ekiti, Headquarters of Ido/Osi Local Government Area of the state, said his government cannot afford to continue with anti-people policies of the past administration.

According to him, education will henceforth be free in all public primary and secondary schools across the state.

“Education is now free up to the secondary cadre in Ekiti State. Our children would no longer pay tax in both public and private schools

“When we were in government before 2010 and 2014, we ran free education until when the last administration came and said school children should pay tax

“By the grace of God, by December this year, we are also going to introduce school feeding from primary to Junior Secondary 3 as part of the benefits we will get from the federal government,” he stated.

Fayemi also appealed to Ekiti people to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 in order to enjoy all the projects promised by the federal government for Ekiti.

He said Buhari has pledged to extend rail line to Ekiti, dualise Ado-Akure road and do other projects across the state.

“We must not allow cracks in our party, we must be united. Whoever thinks he could fight the leaders and other contestants and still win election is wasting his time, he had already heard the result of the election.

“Don’t let us de-market our party, All Progressives Congress (APC) by our comments. We must be united the way we were for the July 14 election

“I want you to learn from me, after the governorship primary, which I won, I immediately embarked on fence-mending mission to all aspirants, this is how it should be.

“President Buhari has promised Ekiti a lot of goodies and the only way Ekiti can benefit is for us to win Ekiti for him,” he said. (NAN)

(NTA)

2019 Elections: CSOs caution security agents against partisanship

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, on Wednesday called on security agencies not to truncate Nigeria’s democracy with partisanship in 2019 elections.

The Convener of the group, Mr Clement Nwankwo, made the call at “Situation Room Dialogue Session’’ with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.

Nwankwo said that no matter how well INEC conducted any election, if the security agents were not working to support it, the process would not be successful.

He described the recent primary elections conducted by political parties as “disasters’’, saying that “in most cases security agents played partisan roles.’’

“A situation where political parties circumvent and compromise all of the agencies is not a good one and we have seen this come to play in many elections.

“I have no reason to understand why a political party will be conducting primaries and a security service, particularly the police, will be interfering.
“In Imo state for instance, one of the persons conducting the primaries said when he arrived he went to deposit sensitive materials with the commissioner of police.

“What is the commissioner of police’s business receiving sensitive materials from a political party? There are 91 political parties, how many of them did he receive sensitive materials from?’’

Nwankwo said that the issues needed to be addressed with the Inspector-General of Police in order to chart a positive way ahead of the 2019 elections.

According to him, Nigeria cannot have a situation where commissioners of police are the security arms of political parties or meddling with them.

He said that security agents had no business with political parties unless as directed by INEC.

“I plead that as we go into 2019 the police must be very careful that it does not become the major truncating force of our democracy in Nigeria by its inability to refrain from partisanship,’’ Nwankwo said.

He said that security agencies’ partisanship was a major issue of concern that needed urgent attention and urged CSOs to do something to bring the issue to an end.

The convener also expressed worry over the undemocratic ways that some political parties conducted their primaries, saying that it reduced the number of women vying for electoral positions.

Responding, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, who was represented by Mr Kenneth Ebrimson of Federal Operations, Police Headquarters, said that the force had been reviewing its coverage of elections.

Idris said that with each election, the force got new insight into the issues, adding that the lapses that occurred in the Rivers, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun elections had been reviewed.

This, he said, was with the view of improving security measures during elections as the force was also partnering sister agencies for credible elections in 2019.

On his part, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that preparations were in top gear towards the 2019 general elections.

He disclosed that the commission was on the third event, which was submission of nominations by political parties, out of its 14 agenda.

Yakubu said that out of the 91 political parties, only 89 submitted notice to conduct primaries and as at Oct.16, only eight parties had filed in their nominations.

He said that 14.5 million people were added to the 70 million voter register from April to August, 2018, making it no fewer than 80 million people.

The chairman said that for those who registered in 2017, the cards were available and for those who registered in the first quarter of 2018m three million cards had been printed for them.

He said that for those who registered in the second quarter, their cards would be ready by the end of November and collection would begin in December till a week to elections in 2019.

Yakubu, however, said that the commission budgeted N189.2 billion for the conduct of the 2019 elections, it was reduced by N200 million to N189 billion. (NAN)

(NTA)

“This is voter suppression”: black seniors in Georgia ordered off of bus to the polls

Officials in Jefferson County, Georgia are being accused of voter suppression after preventing a bus from taking a group of black senior citizens to vote on October 15, 2018.

Voting rights advocates are accusing local officials of voter intimidation after the incident.

As early voting began Monday in Georgia, a group of black senior citizens gathered for a voter outreach event at Jefferson County’s Leisure Center. Members of Black Voters Matter, one of the groups behind the event, offered to drive the group of about 40 seniors to the polls.

But shortly after the seniors boarded the organization’s bus, county officials stopped the trip, prompting new accusations of voter suppression in a state already dealing with several such controversies.

The event, according to ThinkProgress’s Kira Lerner, was a part of Black Voters Matter’s “The South is Rising” bus tour across seven states to host voter outreach and engagement events. Black Voters Matter is nonpartisan, and the group’s leadership did not encourage the senior citizens to vote for a particular candidate or political party, according to LaTosha Brown, the organization’s co-founder.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett countered that the Monday event constituted “political activity,” noting that a local Democratic Party chair helped sponsor it.

“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” Brown told ThinkProgress. According to recent Census figures, Jefferson County is 53 percent black, and voting rights advocates cite a lack of transportation as a particularly high barrier to voting for black Georgians. Civil rights groups most recently raised this point in August when a majority-black Georgia county proposed closing all but two of its polling places.

The bus removal adds to an ongoing debate about voter suppression in Georgia

Brett told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that the “felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party.” He denied allegations that the county had blocked the seniors from exercising their voting rights, saying that the group will be taken to the polls by the Leisure Center. However, some seniors affected, like 70-year-old Bernice Hunley, drove themselves to the polls instead, ThinkProgress reports.

Brett has defended the county’s decision, but voting rights advocates and voter outreach groups like Black Voters Matter say the incident fits into a broader campaign of voter suppression aimed at limiting black turnout ahead of the state’s close gubernatorial election between Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who could become the country’s first black female governor.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund sent a letter to the county on Tuesday requesting an investigation into the matter and calling the incident “an unacceptable act of voter intimidation.”

News of the bus removal comes less than a week after the Associated Press reported that 53,000 voter registrations, the majority from black applicants, were being held by an office of the Georgia secretary of state (led by Kemp) for failing to clear an “exact match” process that compares registration information to social security and state driver records. Last Thursday, a coalition of civil rights groups filed a lawsuit calling for the exact match program to be ended.

On Wednesday, Abrams held a small campaign rally blocks from the senior center. “We want to make certain that the folks of Louisville in Jefferson County understand that we are standing with them as they cast their votes,” she said.

source: vox

Judge bans Paul Manafort from wearing a suit at court hearings

An activist holds a sign while protesting outside Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

The former Trump campaign manager, whose expensive wardrobe was used as evidence against him, will wear a prison uniform.

Paul Manafort’s taste for nice clothes has been part of the former Trump campaign chair’s narrative ever since he was indicted in October 2017 for money laundering, hiding financial assets from the US government, and making false statements about his work for the Ukrainian government. In a somewhat poetic twist, a judge has denied a request from Manafort, who has been in jail since June, to wear a suit at his next hearing on Friday and at all future appearances in court.

“Defendants who are in custody post-conviction are, as a matter of course, not entitled to appear for sentencing or any other hearing in street clothing. This defendant should be treated no differently from other defendants who are in custody post-conviction,” wrote judge T.S. Ellis in a court order, published in full by Talking Points Memo.

It’s a pointed statement: Manafort may be wealthy and powerful, but that doesn’t give him special privileges now. By barring him from dressing in anything other than prison attire, Ellis is further denying Manafort the privilege of using clothing to steer how people perceive him and therefore reclaim some control over his public image. Manafort, who was found guilty on eight counts and later pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges, will instead look like what he is: a criminal.

Suit-wearing men from Manafort’s world don’t typically stand out because of their wardrobes, but thanks to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, many people became intimately familiar with his shopping habits last year. The indictment charges from October 2017 said that Manafort spent more than $1 million in laundered money at high-end clothing stores in New York and Beverly Hills.

When Manafort’s trial rolled around in August, the special counsel’s office released numerous photos of those purchases as evidence, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket as well as a variety of striped and checked suits. (Employees at the boutiques Manafort shopped at also testified during his trial.)

The high flash, low-fi pictures did little to make the items look good, as though laying out in broad daylight the unpleasant fruits of Manafort’s illegal business, now completely vulnerable to our judgment. This is image crafting, too: Whoever shot those photos probably knew they’d look like an unappealing Craigslist ad.

The meaning we derive from clothes changes depending on who’s wearing them and how and where. The suits that look so tawdry in those photos might be exactly what Manafort needs to feel powerful in court. Right now, though, that’s not a decision he gets to make.

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source: vox

Will Mueller show his cards soon after the election? Here are 3 scenarios.

Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in 2013.

Many in the political world think that may be the time.

Expectations are rising in Washington that, shortly after the midterm elections, special counsel Robert Mueller will do … something.

Some believe he’s gearing up to complete a report on Donald Trump’s conduct that will wrap up his probe. Others think he’s readying for major new indictments against high-level players in Trumpworld. And some conservatives say they see signs Mueller is “winding down” his efforts because he hasn’t found much else.

Whatever may be coming next — and Mueller, of course, isn’t commenting on what it might be — the post-election period has long seemed a very plausible time for it, for a few reasons.

First is that the Justice Department’s informal preelection “quiet period” — the norm that investigators shouldn’t rock the boat shortly before an election — will be over. Second, the special counsel asked a court to set key presentencing deadlines for Michael Flynn after the election, a process that could reveal new details about Flynn’s cooperation. Finally, once the election is done, Trump may finally act to push out top Justice Department officials like Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein — so Mueller may have an incentive to make his next move quickly.

In the midst of all this speculation comes a new report from Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm, Greg Farrell, and Shannon Pettypiece, which cites “two US officials” saying that Mueller “is close to rendering judgment” on whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct justice while in office. The Bloomberg team claims Mueller “is expected” to issue these “findings” shortly after the election, per their sources.

Now, we should take anonymous people’s claims to know Mueller’s plans with some grains of salt — his team has been remarkably leak-proof. But this is the buzz that’s currently going around. And if it’s accurate, the weeks following November 6 could be very eventful indeed. So here are a few scenarios for what the endgame might be.

Scenario #1: Mueller completes a report

Probably the most common theory of Mueller’s endgame is that he is planning to finish up with a big report.

This is what independent counsel Ken Starr did during the Clinton Administration: He sent a report to Congress, which Republicans then used as the basis for their impeachment push. The special counsel regulation mentions “a report” at the conclusion of the investigation. It’s widely believed that Mueller won’t indict a sitting president, so a report would seem to be an alternative to that.

Trump’s team has told journalists that Mueller has indicated to them that he will write a report, at least on the obstruction of justice question — though Mueller has, notably, never confirmed this is his plan.

But even if this is the plan, there are many major questions about what such a report would entail.

For one, Mueller does not have the same authority as Ken Starr did. Starr was appointed under the expired independent counsel statute. But Mueller’s special counsel regulation states: “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

First, note that this report is supposed to be “confidential,” raising questions about whether it would ever be disclosed to the public. And second, it’s submitted to the attorney general, not Congress. In this case, that would be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, since Sessions is recused. Would Rosenstein give such a report to Congress?

I’d expect that, should Mueller finish up with a big report, it would end up becoming public one way or another. Still, there are many questions about how it would play out — not least of which is whether the report will be damning, exonerating, or somewhere in between.

Scenario #2: Mueller is preparing more big indictments

Alternatively, there’s the possibility that Mueller’s next move will look much like his previous moves — that it will be an indictment.

A new indictment could come in addition to a big report on Trump’s conduct. For instance, there’s still the unresolved matter of Roger Stone. Mueller’s team focused on him quite intently, hauling a plethora of his associates in to give grand jury testimony this year. Many have expected this was a prelude to a Stone indictment, but no charges have yet materialized.

Yet there’s also a theory that Mueller will finish up with big new indictments instead of a report. Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler has long been a vocal skeptic of the “report” talk and has made several interesting points about this at her site EmptyWheel.

For one, Mueller has seemed to “speak” through his indictments and plea documents so far, often seeming to use them to tell a story. This was particularly the case for his indictments of Russians, but many remarked that the criminal information document in Paul Manafort’s recent plea deal was unusually detailed (even including exhibits).

Wheeler has also pointed out that the lead charge Mueller has filed against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, the Russian troll farm, and Russian intelligence officers involved in hacking has been the same: conspiracy.

So in response to the frequent refrain from the president’s defenders that “collusion” is not even a crime, Wheeler has suggested that Mueller is building up instead to “conspiracy” indictments of major Trumpworld figures who were involved to some extent in Russian interference — and that though Trump himself may not be indicted, these indictments may well lay out his own conduct.

And with the continuing cooperation of Rick Gates, the newfound cooperation of Paul Manafort, and voluntary help from Michael Cohen, perhaps investigators finally have the information they need for those big indictments.

Scenario #3: a quiet conclusion

The flip side of the previous scenario is the theory, popular on the right, that Mueller is actually building toward an anticlimactic end to his investigation because he’s come up empty on his central charge.

Despite charging 32 people with various crimes, Mueller has not yet charged any Trump aides with criminally working with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. The right has seized on this as the glaring omission that justifies skepticism about the entire Russia scandal. “At this point, it does not appear that Mueller has a collusion case against Trump associates,” National Review’s Andrew McCarthy wrote last month.

These skeptics look at events like Paul Manafort’s plea deal and theorize that, far from delivering the goods to take down Trump, this is instead a predictable resolution to Manafort’s unrelated crimes — crimes that have nothing to do with Trump. And his cooperation doesn’t necessarily have to be about Trump; it could involve lawyers or lobbyists who worked with him on his Ukraine work, or even Russians.

Still, even in the rosy interpretation put out by Trump’s lawyers, in which Mueller has nothing on collusion, they say they still fear “a damaging report to Congress about whether the president obstructed justice” (as the New York Times characterized their thinking).

While there’s surely a bit of wishful thinking to all this, there is, of course, wishful thinking among Trump critics in the other direction, too. We should keep in mind that many past political investigations that partisans have put their hopes into — from Plamegate to the Clinton email probe — have ended up petering out without the hoped-for bombshell revelations.

And Mueller certainly hasn’t promised any bombshell revelations. For all we know, after the election, Mueller will announce he’s shutting down the probe with no further action. He simply isn’t saying.

source: vox

Fayose still in our custody, says EFCC

Former Governor of Ekiti state, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who on Tuesday reported at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja in accordance with his promise is still being interrogated by the commission.

 

Former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose (M) arrives the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office in Wuse, Abuja on Tuesday (16/10/18).(NAN)

Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren disclosed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday.

Asked why Fayose was still detained for over 24 hours, Uwujaren said “we are still within range. We are not keeping him but interrogating him.”

Fayose’s tenure as governor ended on Monday, and he had on Saturday, presented “Hand-over Note’’ to his successor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who was inaugurated on Tuesday.

On arrival at EFCC office, the former governor had said “I am here in line with my promise that I will be here on the 16th of October.

“And, like I said to EFCC, they should await my arrival. They had been to my house; they cordoned off my street which I feel personally was unnecessary. It is unwarranted.

“I had led Ekiti, and the best I could give, I have given. Therefore, every question, whatever they need to ask, I will be able to respond appropriately.”

He had in a letter to the EFCC sometime ago, said his term of office “to which I enjoy immunity against investigation and prosecution shall lapse by Monday, Oct. 15, 2018.

“As a responsible citizen of our great country, who believes in the rule of law, I wish to inform you of my decision to make myself available in your office on Tuesday, 16th October, 2018 at 1pm.

“It is to clarify issues or answer questions within my knowledge.’’(NAN)

(NTA)

California and Florida voters could change the lives of millions of animals

Pigs in close quarters on an Iowa farm, July 25, 2018.

Animal welfare, stalled in the legislature, could make major progress at the ballot box.

This November, voters will get the chance to weigh in on some transformative new animal welfare laws at the state level. While these measures go well beyond any current requirements, they’re reasonably likely to pass. Voters tend to be more favorable toward animal welfare than legislators, and animal welfare laws have had some of their biggest successes at the ballot box.

Most Americans aren’t vegetarians or vegans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the welfare of animals. Nearly everyone consumes animals that are raised and killed on factory farms (over 99 percent of land animals raised for food are, so even “humane”-labeled food is typically factory-farmed). But even most meat-eating Americans are strongly opposed to the abuses that are commonplace in the industry. In a 2017 Ipsos/Sentience Institute poll, 49 percent of Americans supported a ban on factory farming, nearly 90 percent thought “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans,” and nearly 70 percent agreed that “the factory farming of animals is one of the most important social issues in the world today.”

Those sentiments might explain why new initiatives that protect animal welfare have had a striking success rate at the ballot box. Voters have banned gestation crates and battery cages in California and Massachusetts, limited puppy mills in Missouri, and restricted the sale of ivory and animal parts in Oregon and Washington.

Meanwhile, legislatures have tended to push the other way. Six state legislatures have banned undercover investigations of factory farms, Iowa passed a law requiring grocers to sell caged eggs, and the federal government is contemplating restrictions on clean meat (which is produced without slaughtering animals). H.R. 6720, which prohibits the sale and slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption, is stalled. H.R. 4691, which closes a loophole that lets breeders with a revoked license keep breeding animals, is languishing in a committee. The last major federal bill targeting farm animal welfare was introduced in 2010, and it never passed.

So laws improving conditions for animals are likely to need a direct referendum to have much chance of success. There are a couple up for consideration this year. We talked with Sentient Media, the Open Philanthropy Project Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter, and the Humane Society of the United States about which ones to look out for.

Proposition 12 in California tries to close some loopholes in the state’s existing farmed animal welfare laws

Proposition 12 would establish new cage-free housing requirements for baby veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens. This isn’t the first time that issue has been in front of California voters. In 2008, voters approved Proposition 2, which required space for farm animals to “lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.” Industrial agriculture promptly settled on a very conservative interpretation of “freely,” and animals remained tightly confined. Proposition 12 leaves less room for interpretation, specifying the number of square feet needed for each animal.

Millions of animals are raised and slaughtered annually on factory farms in California. Even more animals would be affected, since the new requirements apply to any farmer who wants to sell animal products within California. As a result, the new requirements would have an impact across the country and could potentially affect tens of millions of animals. That said, PETA is opposed, objecting that the bill doesn’t allow hens enough space — only one square foot — and that it has a long phase-in period.

When I talked with Josh Balk at the Humane Society of the United States, he rejected that. “No city, state, province, or country in the world has mandated animal protections this strict,” Balk said. And California is not just any state, but an economic and agricultural powerhouse with a high population. “The world’s fifth-largest economy banning the sale of meat and eggs from caged animals is going to have a tremendous impact,” he told me. The Humane Society joins the ASPCA, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and Earth Justice in endorsing the bill. The Association of California Egg Farmers and the National Pork Producers Council are opposed.

At the Open Philanthropy Project, which researches the highest-impact interventions for global problems, farm animal welfare program officer Lewis Bollard came out strongly in favor of Proposition 12:

This would directly improve the welfare of about 40M layer hens, 700K pregnant sows, and 100K veal calves each year. It would force companies to start implementing the crate-free and cage-free promises they’ve made in recent years. And it would remind politicians that, when Americans get a choice, they vote to protect farm animals.

Amendment 13 in Florida phases out commercial greyhound racing

In 40 US states, commercial dog racing is prohibited. Florida is one of the six that still have active dog-racing facilities, which often involve terrible conditions for the dogs. It’s been estimated that a dog dies on Florida’s racetracks every three days. Amendment 13 would end commercial dog races by the end of 2020.

The vast majority of animals in Florida are on factory farms, not dog-racing facilities, so the direct impact of this bill would be fairly small. Animal advocates, though, have often found that smaller reforms to an industry — for example, prohibiting dog fighting, horse slaughter for meat, and circuses — get people thinking about the overall cause and can lead to larger reforms later.

Opponents of the Florida bill were concerned about momentum toward general animal rights too, and appealed to the Florida Supreme Court to strike the proposition from the ballot, objecting that the statement in it “the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida” might set an inappropriate precedent. In a 6-1 decision, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that voters can consider the bill.

The impact of campaigns like the Florida and California ballot initiatives is often larger than the immediate effects. Successful campaigns can directly advance the interests of animals. They also remind legislators that this is an issue of interest to voters. Sometimes — as occurred this year in an Ohio resolution banning puppy mills — opponents of reforms come to the table in advance of a statewide initiative in order to avoid losing a direct vote. Legislators may be much less interested in animal welfare than the public, but referendums mean they can’t get too far behind the times.

source: vox

Pat Cipollone is Trump’s new White House counsel

President Donald Trump calls on reporters at the White House on October 17, 2018.

The Washington lawyer could be dealing with an onslaught of investigations should the Democrats succeed in taking the House.

President Donald Trump is about to welcome a new White House counsel.

Trump, in an interview with the Associated Press published Tuesday, confirmed reports that he’d selected Washington attorney Pat Cipollone to fill the post.

“I’ve made a decision. He’s ... you’ve been reading a little bit about it,” Trump told the AP. “A very fine man, highly respected by a lot of people: Pat.”

Cipollone will take over for Don McGahn, who served as White House counsel since 2017. McGahn’s job was to tackle and advise on any thorny legal issues facing the office of the presidency, though McGahn’s biggest contribution will likely be his aggressive push to get Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed.

McGahn’s departure had been expected for some time. Trump announced via tweet in August that McGahn would leave in the fall after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone quietly came up in early speculation over who might take McGahn’s place. The Washington attorney has close ties to Trump and his circle, and reportedly has the support of Trump’s personal attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow.

But Cipollone won’t be a personal attorney for Trump. As White House counsel, his job is to protect the office of the presidency, not the president himself.

Still, Trump prizes loyalty among his appointees, and McGahn did a few things that might have disappointed him, like cooperating with investigators from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Cipollone might not be handling the Russia investigation directly, but he will be very, very busy — especially if Democrats retake the House of Representatives in the November midterms and begin the onslaught of congressional investigations.

Cipollone may have signed up for the toughest job in Washington

Cipollone comes to the White House from Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, where, according to his firm bio, he’s currently a litigation partner. He’s deeply involved in Catholic causes, the Washington Post reported, and he served in the George H.W. Bush Justice Department under former Attorney General William Barr (who, incidentally, is reportedly a potential candidate to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)

“He’s a respected Washington litigator,” a source told Axios earlier this month. “He’s not one of the big names in the Washington Republican Bar, but he’s respected.”

His résumé might might have stood out for other reasons — including his early support of Trump. Cipollone helped with debate prep during the 2016 campaign, sources told CBS News, and he’s since stayed in touch with the president.

Cipollone is also friendly with Emmet Flood, Trump’s attorney in charge of handling special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. (Flood had also been considered for the White House counsel job, but will remain in his current role.) Cipollone has also given informal advice to Trump’s legal team on the Russia probe since at least June, according to the Washington Post.

What Don McGahn leaves behind

Cipollone will be Trump’s second White House counsel, replacing McGahn, whose tenure was at times tumultuous.

McGahn joined the White House at the start of the president’s term, in 2017, though he’d been an early — and somewhat surprising — supporter of candidate Trump.

But as McGahn readies his White House exit, there are signs the relationship between the president and his top aide has turned sour. Rumors had circulated since at least March that McGahn wanted out. Trump eventually obliged in August with a tweet that declared McGahn would depart in the fall, after Kavanaugh’s confirmation. McGahn was reportedly surprised by the tweet, effectively putting him on the list of White House personnel ousted through social media posts.

The Kavanaugh confirmation, of course, transformed into a bitter and drawn-out fight, but McGahn accomplished what he set out to do. To that end, McGahn helped Trump deliver on one of his biggest presidential accomplishments: getting a record number of conservative judicial picks confirmed, including two Supreme Court justices. McGahn’s efforts have ushered in a quiet, but very real, transformation within the federal courts.

But cementing Trump’s legacy might not have been enough for McGahn. The president reportedly grew dissatisfied with McGahn as he became embroiled in the White House drama around Mueller’s investigation into Trump-Russia ties.

McGahn was involved in at least four matters that Mueller is investigating, including Trump’s efforts to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia probe and Trump’s attempts to fire Mueller. (Trump said McGahn was “NOT” responsible for him not firing Mueller or Sessions.)

In August, a few weeks before Trump tweeted about McGahn’s departure, the New York Times reported that McGahn had completed three voluntary interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The interviews totaled more than 30 hours and covering topics including Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and Trump’s reported attempts to fire Mueller himself. Exactly what McGahn told investigators isn’t known — not even by Trump’s lawyers.

Trump denied that the “Russia Witch Hunt” had anything do to with his decision about McGahn, but the timing was certainly notable. Now that McGahn has secured Kavanaugh’s spot on the Supreme Court bench, his White House tenure is nearing its end date. (Sources told CNN McGahn will likely stay on until the midterms; the White House did not return a request for comment on when Cipollone will start.)

Cipollone, when he does take over, will likely be tasked with keeping up McGahn’s clip at pushing Trump’s judicial agenda, though he doesn’t appear to have the deep connections in Republican politics that McGahn brought to the job.

He’ll also have to deal with the potential onslaught of investigations should the Democrats win the House of Representatives after the midterms. Even if Cipollone isn’t handling the Russia investigation, the probe is constantly looming over the White House. Cipollone, then, may be dealing with everything McGahn faced, and more.

source: vox

Republicans were supposed to run on their tax cuts. Instead, they’re running away from them.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan holds up an example of a proposed tax form at a press conference in April 2018.

Turns out a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefits rich people and corporations isn’t the most winning issue with voters.

While most of the attention on Congress was focused on then-Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in late September, House Republicans quietly passed yet another round of tax cuts, sending the bill to the Senate, which appears to have no intention of taking it up.

You probably aren’t hearing them talk much about it on the campaign trail — or about the tax bill they passed late last year, either.

Many in the GOP thought tax cuts would be a 2018 midterms winner. They’re not.

Sahil Kapur and John McCormick reported for Bloomberg this week that the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the primary House Republican Super PAC and the highest-spending political group this election cycle, has not been talking about tax cuts in its television advertising nearly as much as anticipated, according to data from Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks political advertising.

Of the 31,200 broadcast ads the House Republican PAC put out in the first nine months of 2018, just 17.3 percent referred to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the most significant piece of legislation this Congress has passed. And mentions of taxes have declined over time: In February, 72.8 percent of CLF’s ads were touting tax reform; in September, it was 16.8 percent.

That’s not to say the group isn’t paying any lip service to taxes — CNN reported that the group has spent more than $5.4 million on tax ads this election cycle, $2 million of which focused on tax reform. But given that many Republicans at the start of year were convinced their tax bill was going to be the winning issue in 2018, the fact that it hasn’t turned out that way — and that some of their ad messaging signifies they’re well aware of it — is notable.

“The argument Republicans have been making is fundamentally hollow,” Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for liberal campaign group American Bridge, told me. “You can’t say, ‘Hey, this is a game-changer,’ when the game isn’t changing for you.”

Democrats got out in front on messaging, and then the facts of the bill couldn’t reverse the narrative

Right after the tax bill took effect, House Republicans had their marching orders: Talk about it often.

“For members or anybody else who cares about keeping control of Congress, if you find yourself talking about anything but the middle class tax cut, shut up and stop talking,” Corry Bliss, who runs CLF, told the New York Times back in February. “Any time spent on TV talking about anything but how we’re helping the middle class is a waste of time and does nothing to help us win in 2018.”

But over time, Republicans appear to have determined that’s not the case. Polling shows that the American public hasn’t been particularly impressed with the tax bill.

According to a RealClearPolitics average, 39 percent of Americans approve of the legislation and 42.5 percent disapprove of it. An internal poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee and obtained by Bloomberg last month said that, by a two-to-one margin, Americans see the tax bill as benefiting large corporations and rich Americans over the middle class.

Most voters aren’t noticing a personal benefit to their finances, either. A recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans said they hadn’t seen an increase in their take-home pay, and 51 percent said the cuts hadn’t helped them financially.

Frank Clemente, executive director at progressive coalition Americans for Tax Fairness, said that in his view, the anti-tax bill message succeed for two reasons: Democrats did a good job of casting it as overwhelmingly benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Republicans, on the substance of the bill, haven’t been able to take back the narrative.

“You can’t defeat something — which is our framing of the issue and people accepting our framing of the issue — with nothing, which is that people aren’t seeing a pay boost,” he said.

According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, while most Americans will benefit at least somewhat, the top fifth of earners get 70 percent of the bill’s benefits, and the top 1 percent get 34 percent. The new tax treatment for “pass-through” entities — companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations — will mean an estimated $17 billion in tax savings for millionaires in 2018. American corporations are showering their shareholders with stock buybacks this year thanks in part to their tax savings.

The conservative Heritage Foundation has estimated that taxpayers will save an average $1,400 this year. An Americans for Tax Farness analysis found the Koch brothers could save up to $1.4 billion — 1 million times the amount.

The GOP appeared to realize quite early on their tax bill campaigning might not work out as planned. Ahead of the March special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, in which Democrat Conor Lamb narrowly defeated Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone, Republicans largely abandoned the tax message.

“Democrats quite possibly have better bullets to shoot at us, and frankly, I think that our voters have moved on to other issues,” one Republican strategist, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely about the matter, told me in July. “It’s not as big of an issue as we thought it might have been in January or February of this year.”

Other factors could be making matters worse

While many Republicans may not be over-eager to talk about the tax bill, some Democrats are pushing the issue — especially when they’re able to include it into a broader narrative about the deficit and entitlement spending.

The Treasury Department said this week that the federal budget deficit had increased to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018, a 17 percent increase from the prior year, in large part because of the tax cuts Republicans had claimed would pay for themselves.

And as Vox’s Dylan Scott explained, just like clockwork, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg Congress should target Social Security and Medicare cuts in an attempt to address the debt. Per Scott:

The GOP’s priorities on the deficit are clear: Corporate taxes were too high, and now that they’ve been cut, government benefits are too generous, so they must be cut too. The trade is explicit.

Democrats are trying to capitalize on it.

“There’s a whole new level of clear and present danger for these programs,” Tyler Law, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told me. “People are rightfully scared, and that’s resonating. In poll after poll, district by district, voters respond very strongly to a message that takes the tax bill head-on as a handout to the wealthy and large corporations that will lead to deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”

He said he thinks the tax bill has been a “political disaster” for Republicans.

Ryan Alexander, president of nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, told me she thinks the timeline for Republicans to tout the tax bill has, to a certain extent, passed.

“To the extent that people saw an increase in their paychecks, which a lot of people did, it wasn’t that big, and now they’re used to it,” she said. “Any corporate announcements because of this tax bill, those are also remote in time, and they’ve had time to go through the news cycle.”

And taxes aren’t the main economic issue in the headlines right now, either. “Particularly in farm states, I think the trade story is the dominant economic story there,” Alexander said.

There are still groups betting on taxes. Conservative lobbying group Heritage Action for America is messaging exclusively around the tax bill for the 2018 midterms and is spending $2.5 million in 12 congressional districts on direct mail, digital advertisements, and television spots that are both positive and negative. The candidates they’re supporting include Dave Brat in Virginia, Yvette Herrell in New Mexico, and Rod Blum in Iowa.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a pro-Republican Super PAC dedicated to holding the majority in the Senate, has mentioned taxes in some of its ads, though its message appears to be tied more to threats that Democrats will raise taxes, not positive talk of the tax bill. One ad goes after North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp over her opposition to the estate tax, another attacks Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen over raising taxes when he was governor.

Jessica Anderson, vice president of Heritage Action, told me the group feels the tax bill is the “most compelling” of President Donald Trump’s and Congress’s policy accomplishments since he’s been in office. “We are finding that it’s working when the data is actually localized,” she said. “If [candidates] are saying the tax cuts help you, and there’s no evidence of how or why it helps them, then it totally falls flat.”

Republicans might have already gotten what they wanted out of the tax bill

But the tax bill did make one group very happy: the donors who are helping fund many Congressional Republicans’ reelection campaigns.

Before the tax bill was passed, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said “financial contributions will stop” if the legislation failed. New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who was charged with insider trading in August, said last year his donors were telling him, “Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”

Republicans got it done, and they were rewarded.

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson cut CLF a $30 million check after the tax bill passed and Speaker Ryan paid him a visit. He’s spending tens of millions of dollars this election cycle on helping Republicans.

CLF and the GOP can spend that money on whatever message they want. The tax bill is paying dividends to Republicans financially, even if it’s not playing particularly well with voters.

Democrats are continuing to try to seize on that part of the narrative, too. The DCCC is running one digital ad that shows a group of business executives talking about how much they’ve benefited from the tax bill, while others lower on the chain have obviously not.

“It’s complete payback [to donors], and payback in spades,” Clemente, from Americans for Tax Fairness, told me. “It’s a phenomenal return on investment.”

source: vox

Fighting climate change won’t destroy the economy

Trump is wrong that fighting climate change will cost millions of jobs and hurt the economy.

Trump and other Republicans are using the economy as an excuse to stall on climate change.

During an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, President Trump was asked about climate change. He responded with a digression about the intensity of hurricanes but fell back on a familiar talking point about the economy, saying that “what I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows.”

It echoed comments he made Sunday on 60 Minutes about climate change. “I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage,” he said.

The remarks came shortly after Hurricane Michael tore through Florida and as an international panel of scientists warned that the world may have as little as 12 years to act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

When pressed on climate change, Trump and other elected Republicans routinely use the economy as a shield to avoid committing to any policies to slow or adapt to climate change.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN that he believes humans contribute to climate change, “but I’m also not going to destroy our economy.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a similar point during a debate with challenger Beto O’Rourke, saying O’Rourke’s concern about climate change is about “the power to control the economy.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said he hadn’t read the new climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but also agreed that the economy comes before fighting climate change.

“We ought to be talking about the things that we can do and still maintain a strong economy, because we’re not going to be able to address it unless we keep a strong economy,” he told the Hill.

All these comments are based on the false premise that fighting climate change will come at the expense of jobs, businesses, and growth. As the latest IPCC report showed, the changing climate will be punishing for the global economy, while working to keep warming in check will yield immense financial benefits in the long term.

Climate change is already hurting the economy

The planet has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and we’re seeing the consequences now in the form of more frequent and severe heat waves, 8 inches of sea level rise, and more intense rainfall, all of which have cost the United States dearly.

In particular, rising average temperatures have boosted the raw ingredients of extreme weather events, leading them to cause more destruction than they would have otherwise. Hurricane Florence, for example, caused $22 billion in damages. Scientists found the storm dumped 50 percent more rain due to climate change and flooded 11,000 additional homes due to sea level rise. Hurricane Michael is estimated to have led to $10 billion in destruction.

These storms came after 2017, the costliest year on record for natural disasters. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and tropical storms, all exacerbated by climate change, cost the US economy at least $306 billion.

And as temperatures rise, so will the tolls. In its latest report, the IPCC estimated that the global economy would take a $54 trillion hit if the world warms by 1.5°C by 2100. That price tag rises $69 trillion if temperatures reach 2°C.

In other words, there’s a huge price tag to doing nothing on climate change.

Future economic growth lies in fighting climate change

On the other hand, increasing sustainability by using more renewable energy, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy-efficient would save the global economy $26 trillion by 2030.

Dirtier sources of energy like coal are already struggling with job losses and bankruptcies. There are about 52,000 workers left in the coal industry. Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector employs more than 800,000 people in the United States.

And those numbers are poised to grow further in the United States: Solar power has surpassed natural gas and wind as the largest source of new energy generation.

We’ve also heard rhetoric similar to Trump’s before about previous efforts to protect the environment. The policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, have long been criticized as a drain on the economy.

Environmental regulations do hurt some sectors while boosting others. However, on balance, they’ve been a huge net benefit to the economy. The EPA’s Clean Air Act, for instance, has saved $22 trillion in health care costs and created a $782 billion market for environmental goods and services.

Some Republicans do recognize that fighting climate change could benefit the economy. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has proposed a carbon tax to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Those who choose to ignore it will pay a price. We all will ultimately,” Curbelo told the Washington Examiner.

source: vox

The past 24 hours in Jamal Khashoggi news, explained

We learned a lot about what may have happened to Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi over the past 24 hours.

It now seems very clear he was murdered, and that Saudi Arabia was responsible.

Over the past 24 hours, we learned precise details about what Turkish officials say happened to Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi when he disappeared two weeks ago — and how the Trump administration wants to sweep the issue under the rug.

On Tuesday night, the Wall Street Journal reported that Khashoggi was drugged and murdered inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on October 2 in the presence of a top Saudi official, according to Turkish sources and an audio recording. The New York Times reported on other details from the audio recording of the incident the following morning.

Also over the past two days, comments by both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate that the US will let Saudi Arabia investigate what happened to Khashoggi rather than getting involved themselves. That likely won’t lead to an independent outcome, but the administration won’t cast any blame until the probe is complete.

Put together, it appears that the Saudis murdered an American resident — and the American president will let it slide, at least for now.

Khashoggi was beaten, drugged, killed, and dismembered

It’s hard to know what, exactly, happened to Jamal Khashoggi, and rumors have swirled for weeks about the precise details. But new reports from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times provide the clearest picture so far.

Turkish authorities told the Journal that Khashoggi was killed mere minutes after walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Members of a Saudi 15-man security team tortured him, which included beating him up and cutting his fingers off. Khashoggi was also drugged, and eventually murdered in the office of the consulate’s chief, Mohammad al-Otaibi. The murder only took a few minutes, according to the New York Times.

“Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,” al-Otaibi reportedly said. “If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,” a member of the Saudi team that had traveled to Istanbul that morning shot back.

It’s possible that the agent was Saudi forensic specialist Salah al-Tabiqi, who the Wall Street Journal reported can be heard on the audio recording. He told the consul general to leave the room and for other people participating in the murder to listen to music, at which point al-Tabiqi proceeded to dismember Khashoggi’s lifeless body — including cutting his head off.

At no point was Khashoggi interrogated, according to the report. That counters a current Saudi effort to release a report in which Riyadh would claim the journalist was killed by accident during an interrogation gone wrong.

If the latest account is true — and it’s hard to know when Turkish officials are leaking information on behalf of the government — it’s a grisly, remarkable event that shows an immense level of premeditation on behalf of Saudi officials. And according to US intelligence revealed by the Washington Post, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — better known as MBS — ordered an operation to kidnap Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia.

The only way to know for sure is for an independent investigation to take place. At this point, it looks like that won’t happen — and the US seems to be fine with that.

Trump and Pompeo will let Saudi Arabia handle the investigation

Two recent interviews — one with the president and the other with the secretary of state — show how little pressure the US will put on Saudi Arabia to figure out what happened to Khashoggi.

For example, take what Trump told the Associated Press on Tuesday:

“[W]e have to find out what happened first,” Trump said in the interview conducted in the Oval Office. “[H]ere we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent ... We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the way.”

That’s a shocking way to put it. Even though America’s spies say Saudi royalty, and MBS specifically, are responsible for Khashoggi’s death, Trump dismisses that information in the same way he dismissed credible accusations that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women in his high school days.

And on Monday, Trump had no problem speculating that perhaps “rogue killers” were at fault — not the Saudi regime.

Pompeo didn’t add any pressure on the Saudis during an interview with reporters on Thursday.

The Saudis “are determined to get to the bottom of it, and that they will conduct the report, and we’ll all get a chance to see it,” Pompeo said in Saudi Arabia after meeting with officials there on Wednesday, including taking smiling photos with MBS. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he added in response to a question about whether Khashoggi was dead or alive. “They [Saudi officials] didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

In other words, the US won’t blame Saudi Arabia until it completes the investigation. But if Saudi leadership had anything to do with Khashoggi’s potential murder, then it’s highly doubtful the final report will be an honest account of what happened.

That’s why Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Wednesday morning that others should conduct the probe.

“The first step, I think, is to determine exactly what happened,” he said. “That, I believe, requires a thorough international investigation — not something that the Saudis will do.”

Reed added that the US should consider restricting arms sales to Riyadh as punishment. But Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to take any actions that could imperil a litany of arms sales to Riyadh that could total $110 billion.

It’s unclear if the Trump administration will strike a harder line after more details of what happened to Khashoggi come to light. But based on current US administration comments, Saudi Arabia may literally get away with murder.

source: vox